Sanctions as Chemotherapy: A Universal System of Monitoring to Assess the Humanitarian Health Impact of Sanctions | Ruth Gibson

Sanctions as Chemotherapy: A Universal System of Monitoring to Assess the Humanitarian Health Impact of Sanctions | Ruth Gibson

Tuesday, June 6, 2023
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

William J. Perry Conference Room

  • Ruth Gibson

Seminar Recording

About the Event: Nations and international organizations increasingly turned to sanctions as a coercive policy tool against other countries to influence their behavior without relying on the use of force. Sanctions are the most common nonviolent geopolitical tool, and their use is expanding with explosive frequency. However, decades of health research on sanctions plead for the cessation of this tool because of the widespread human suffering caused by certain types of sanctions.

Dr. Ruth Gibson considers sanctions as the equivalent of a chemotherapy drug––one that should be planned, titrated, and continually evaluated to determine if the treatment is having the intended consequence or killing off essential functioning for sustaining life.

The goal in this work is to improve human health, minimize humanitarian harm, and design systems for monitoring sanctions that are realistic for use by the United Nations and the main sanction-sending nation-states.

This talk presents the developments of Stanford Medicine’s work with the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights to develop an analytic system capable of assessing the potential and actual humanitarian effects of sanctions in different international settings. For the last three decades UN monitors and lawyers have called for the development of a universal system of agreed-upon metrics for human health. A team of scholars and doctors at Stanford Medicine is responsible for guiding the developments related to human health, specifically maternal and child health. There is an urgent need for a framework that would allow both sanctioning countries and international monitors to foresee and document the impacts of specific sanctions on human rights, including health, so that those impacts can be avoided or mitigated. Dr. Gibson will outline how we are designing the maternal and child health system of indictors for monitoring sanction regimes.

The goal of the question-and-answer period is to actively debate and brainstorm how to improve this work to balance preservation of human rights with the strategic goals of the US Department of State.

Dr. Gibson welcomes input from diverse communities and academic disciplines at Stanford and looks forward to the discussion.

About the Speaker: Ruth Gibson is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford Medicine. She is cross appointed by courtesy as a postdoctoral trainee at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at the Freeman Spoli Institute. She is supported by a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, the most prestigious postdoctoral award given by the Government of Canada to future global leaders in medicine, engineering, and the humanities. Ruth spent ten years living abroad doing humanitarian and global health work in eight countries on five continents, focusing on fragile nations struggling with poverty, human rights abuses, and civil conflict. She then completed her PhD in Global Health and Strategic Studies at the University of British Columbia, where she was named a Killam Laureate, Canada’s highest honor for doctoral scholars. She is currently working with the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights to develop a universal system of monitoring to assess the impacts of unilateral sanctions on human rights. Ruth, Prof. Paul Wise, and Senior Associate Dean of Global Health Michele Barry are leading the maternal and child health component of this project. Ruth is co-PI on a SEED grant investigating the impact of humanitarian aid sanctions on maternal and child health. Ruth is also a research affiliate with the Center for Human Rights and International Justice, where she is assisting Dr. Daryn Reicherter with the preparation of expert reports on the mental health impacts of war crimes for the International Criminal Court. Her research is funded by the Center for Innovation in Global Health and the Maternal and Child Health Research Institute at Stanford Medicine.


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